Profiling Lille Teen Sensation & Barcelona Target Rafael Leao

Lille OSC have had a terrific season thus far in Ligue 1.

They currently sit in second place and have a four point lead over third placed Olympique Lyonnais.

Not bad when you consider the fact that Lille finished in seventeenth position last term and just avoided relegation.

A big part of the club’s success has been down to their young stars performing to the highest of standards.

Twenty-three year old Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe has been Lille’s talismanic figure. He scares opposition defences with his direct style, his prolific goalscoring and his uncanny awareness that allows him to consistently make the right decisions.

Pepe leads the club’s scoring charts with sixteen league goals and he’s also his side’s leading assist maker too, with eight assists to his name. Not bad for a player that’s played on the right-wing all season.

But it would be an injustice to say that Lille OSC are just a one man team.

Brazilian Thiago Mendes keeps things ticking over in midfield and the twenty-six year old doesn’t mind a tackle either. Jonathan Bamba has excelled on the left-wing, adding to his team’s cause with nine Ligue 1 strikes.

But there’s a young striker that, along with Pepe, is catching the attention of Europe’s top sides. That youngster is Rafael Leão.

The nineteen year old Portuguese under-21 international arrived on a free transfer last summer from Sporting Lisbon. He was one of Sporting’s stars that terminated their own contracts after players and staff were attacked by fans at the Portuguese club’s training base.

The young forward had made three substitute top tier appearances during his stint in Lisbon, scoring a goal and creating an assist.

His choice in going to Les Dogues has already been vindicated.

Leão could’ve walked into pretty much any top club’s academy but he was never going to be guaranteed first team football at a Manchester City or a Manchester United.

Lille have a rich history of giving young players a chance in their first team, as long as they’re good enough. The biggest success story in that regard is obviously Eden Hazard but Yohan Cabaye, Lucas Digne, Idrissa Gueye and Peter Odemwingie all flourished as young players plying their trade with the Ligue 1 team.

If you look at just those five ex-players you’ll see players that have played at the highest level at clubs in Europe’s top leagues and they all became internationals too.

So Rafael must’ve have looked at Lille and thought that he’d be playing regularly in a strong European league and a top flight that often gets looted of it’s top talent by the biggest teams in the world!

Teenager Leão hasn’t had to wait too long for his first-team chances. He made his debut back in September as Lille trounced Marseille in a 3-0 win!

Rafael would score in his first Ligue 1 start against Caen. Importantly Les Dogues boss Christope Galtier trusted his young recruit to lead the line as a solo striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. In that game the hitman completed 77% of his passes, had two shots at his opponent’s goal and won his only aerial duel (Stats from Whoscored). It was a fairly mature first start with the starting eleven.

He’s now made fifteen league appearances for Lille, hitting the net seven times and creating one assist. In actual fact, Leão has actually scored all his goals and created his assist for Pepe in his last eight Ligue 1 appearances!

Leão looks to be settling into life at Stade Pierre-Mauroy and becoming one of LOSC’s top stars. That seems to be echoed by La Liga giants FC Barcelona, who have been recently linked with the young forward (From Football Espana).

So why would a side like Barca be interested in Rafael Leão?

Well he’s already shown us that he can get goals in a very strong league like Ligue 1.

The striker also has terrific pace that can get him away from opposition defenders. He also has the physical attributes not to get easily bullied, hence why LOSC coach Galtier has started him as a lone number nine. The forward is also good in the air, making him a threat from various areas.

When it comes to finishing, the youngster seems to like early one touch finishes. That not only shows us that he has confidence in his own ability but it also makes it tougher for goalkeepers, who struggle to set themselves given the little time Rafael gives them to do so.

Sporting Lisbon youth coach Tiago Fernandes said this about Rafael (Source – Goal.com):

“I pushed [then-Sporting coach] Jorge Jesus to take him in the first team and I said to him: ‘Yes, Gelson Martins has talent but Rafael is the best player in the history of the Sporting Academy’. At youth level, he was better than Cristiano Ronaldo,”

Saying he was better than Cristiano Ronaldo at that stage is a huge statement and that’s exactly why a team like Barcelona would be interested in Leão.

Rafael Leão’s Lille form will have only increased interest in the young star, who has also been compared to Kylian Mbappe.

You can bet your bottom dollar that other top club’s like Man Utd, Man City and Juventus will also be keeping tabs on the Portuguese forward.

Personally I don’t see any rush for Leão to leave Lille, but when he does it could be to a huge club  and for a big fee!

If Chelsea Sack Sarri Then Blues Hierarchy Will Need To Take Blame

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri must be feeling the pressure at Stamford Bridge.

The honeymoon period that saw The Blues leading the Premier League table at the beginning of the season has well an truly ended.

Sarri has watched on as his side lost 4-0 in the league to AFC Bournemouth and 6-0 to champions Manchester City. Chelsea now sit outside the vital top four positions (they currently lie in sixth position). The Blues were also knocked out of the FA Cup at home to Manchester United, after yet another insipid performance at Stamford Bridge.

The home fans turned on their boss and his ‘Sarri-Ball’ philosophy and booing their gaffer’s like for like substitutions.

As we know, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich isn’t scared to pull the trigger if a boss isn’t working out to his expectations. It’s being reported (90Min) that it will cost the London giants just £5m to sack the Italian manager.

It could happen as soon as next week, if Maurizio’s side are once again left humiliated by Pep Guardiola’s Man City side in the League Cup final. Obviously the mood might be brighter around The Bridge if Eden Hazard and Co can beat City to claim England’s first piece of silverware this season.

But if Chelsea do decide to sack Maurizio Sarri, then the club’s hierarchy including Abramovich will need to accept a lot of the blame for what’s happened.

If you listen to anyone that follows Italian football, then you’d have been aware that instant success from Sarri at Chelsea was far from guaranteed.

In July 2018, well respected Italian football writer Adam Digby wrote a thread on Twitter explaining what could happen during Sarri’s maiden season as Chelsea manager:

A lot of Adam’s points have come true.

Fans look at Chelsea’s team and their displays and call for a change. They want a change in tactics and personnel but as Adam states Sarri doesn’t do that.

You can call it stubborn but that’s the way it is and it’s worked in the past for the coach. He is a longterm thinker and wants to boss games with lots of possession and high pressing. He’ll pick the players within his squad that will give him the best chance of playing in that style and he’ll continue to do that.

Now that’s frustrating, especially if the team are getting beaten and decisively beaten but that’s what the Chelsea board signed up to when they hired Maurizio.

Roman Abramovich clearly wants to see sexy football much like the style Guardiola is famous for. Much like that Napoli played during Sarri’s stint there. But it takes time.

Roman also wants to win trophies and to get into the Champions League every year.

Sometimes you can’t have both, if you want the stylish football then you need wait for things to develop and have a few transfer windows to get the players at the club that can adapt to Sarri-ball.

If Chelsea sack Maurizio Sarri, then the hierarchy need to stop chasing the dream of a certain type of football and realise that they just want instant results!

Senior Players Need To Step Up At Rangers!

Rangers suffered from a pretty terrible weekend last weekend.

The Gers couldn’t breakdown St Johnstone as they shared the spoils at Ibrox. A day later current Scottish Premiership champions and leaders Celtic scored a last gasp winner to beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, extending their lead to an eight point gap!

There might not be any coming back from that.

Gers boss Steven Gerrard has guided his team to some impressive results during his maiden year in charge but unfortunately for him and his players they haven’t been consistent enough to keep up fully with their Glasgow rivals.

Allan McGregor, Kyle Lafferty and new January recruits Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis were brought to Ibrox could give the young stars the confidence and guidance needed to mount a serious title challenge.

The veterans need to step up and try and get their side back in the hunt, just in case Celtic slip up.

In fairness, goalkeeper McGregor has been a terrific signing. The goalie has produce match winning performances both domestically and in Europe.

Yet the thirty-seven year old needs to watch how he protects himself. I’ve followed the Scottish internationalist during his entire career and he often sticks his leg out and catches his opponents. The keeper will tell you that he’s just protecting himself from challenges but it sometimes looks nasty, he tends to raise his feet too high and leave a boot out for too long.

It caught up with him against Aberdeen recently and he was retrospectively given a two game ban. McGregor needs to calm down slightly in those situations because his teammates need him in between the sticks and not in the stands.

After a very bright first couple of games, Kyle Lafferty hasn’t done enough since re-joining Rangers in 2018. The tall forward has it in him to be a game changer, we’ve seen him doing such during his first stint at Rangers, his time at Hearts and with Northern Ireland.

The thirty-one year old attacker has scored just four goals in twenty appearances for The Light Blues this term. That’s not good enough and it’s a stat that needs to increase between now and the end of season. He has to work his socks off, whether it be through the middle or on the wing. Lafferty has the attributes needed to bully and bamboozle defences, he just needs to switch on mentally and become that dynamic forward again!

Steven Gerrard has already put down the gauntlet to his experienced forward (The Scottish Sun):

“Kyle’s just got to keep his head down and work as hard as he can.”

“We still think he can contribute here and he’s got a big part to play.”

Jermain Defoe will get you goals, we know this and he’s already shown us that this will happen in Scotland. In his first five Gers appearances, the England hitman has scored three goals.

What Defoe has to do is become match fit and score when his team really needs him too. On Saturday, Jermain led the line as top scorer Alfredo Morelos missed the game through suspension. That’s when they need the veteran to score and he couldn’t get the job done.

Midfielder Steven Davis could be the one under the most pressure to shine between now and May.

During his first Rangers spell, the midfielder would become the club captain and he’d win various trophies with the Govan club. At that time, Davis was a key performer that made things happen.

The thirty-four year old hasn’t done that thus far since coming back. He hasn’t looked fully match fit and he hasn’t been that talismanic figure that he was before. I believe he still has it in him, he just needs to show it!

Rangers have a huge game against Killie tonight in the Scottish Cup. It might be their best chance of ending this campaign with some silverware. It could be a springboard to get back to winning ways and start a winning streak.

If The Light Blues are going to end the season with a significant flourish, then I believe that they’ll need their elder players to make a big impact when called upon!

Time To Appreciate Star Man Paul Pogba At Manchester United!

In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s twelve games in charge at Manchester United, Paul Pogba has found the net nine times and created a whopping six assists.

The French World Cup winners sensational performances have helped propel Man United back into the Premier League’s top four and he starred in The Red Devils’ FA Cup win last night over Chelsea. The midfielder expertly set-up Ander Herrera for the Spaniard’s goal before heading in his team’s second on the stroke of half-time.

Solskjaer’s arrival at Old Trafford has revitalised the whole football club and the Norwegian caretaker boss has managed to get the team playing with confidence. Ole allows his side to play with an attack-minded philosophy and gives his players the chance to express themselves.

Pogba has taken his new bosses philosophy to heart, he’s now playing with a smile on his face and with a real swagger. The £89m is finally living up to his reputation and becoming a game changer for United.

Yet some still seem too eager to point the finger at him if anything goes wrong.

Man United have only suffered one loss since Solskjaer’s arrival and that came at the hands of Ligue 1 cracks PSG in last week’s Champions League tie.

The Red Devils interim manager stated that the game was a bit of a reality check for his team (Source – BBC Sport):

“Today was a kind of a reality check on the level of the top teams,”

“That is the level we want to get to. Top four is one thing. United should be at the top. They are a top team. [Our players] know we need to step up our level. We are disappointed.”

During that loss to PSG, Pogba received two yellow cards and will now miss the return leg. Not ideal given his heroics in recent months.

The funny thing is that some United supporters used that sending off as an excuse to have a go at the midfielder again:

Rival supporters would also have a pop at him:

Then you get the so called pundits at it too. Talksport host and former Ipswich Town forward Alan Brazil stated this in his Sunday Post column:

Now Paul Pogba may have cost his team a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

I’ve said it before – the guy is more trouble than he’s worth.

And I think the smartest thing United could do is cut their losses and send him packing.

That has to be one of the worst takes I’ve seen in a long time.

Firstly can we analyse Pogba’s second yellow card.

It wasn’t a bad tackle nor was it particular malicious, in my opinion.

Paul likes to step over the ball, guarding it with his body and dragging it back. A move French footballing legend Zinedine Zidane would often perfect. Pogba got his timing horribly wrong, PSG full-back Dani Alves sneaked in first and the Man United midfielder caught him.

Did it merit a second yellow? Yes it did, he was late and wasn’t in control of the situation. Was it a terrible challenge? No. I do think Pogba has to take more care doing that particular move in tight spots.

Should that one clumsy moment define his United career or his sensational performance as of late? No that’s ridiculous Mr Brazil.

Pundits will say that the maverick middle-man didn’t try hard enough under former boss Jose Mourinho and his attitude under Jose was the catalyst to what happened under Jose’s reign and his eventual dismissal.

The stats don’t back that up, Pogba was always high up when it came to goals and assists under Mourinho. Plus the Portuguese gaffer has to accept the fact that he could be the issue. As well as Pogba, the ‘Special One‘ has also fallen out with Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard in the past. It’s probably time for some people to understand that Jose isn’t the same top class man-manager he was in the early 2000s.

Also let’s not ignore what French national team boss Didier Deschamps has said about the midfield maestro just to suit your own narrative. Didier has gone on record in The Guardian to say that Pogba is an inspirational leader on the pitch:

“He has taken many things upon himself. He has been a leader,”

“Each time he had to talk and express himself it was always very positive. It’s the words he uses and the atmosphere and feeling that comes across. He is not the only one but he is one of the leaders who took it upon himself because the group needed it. On the pitch he did what needed to be done as well.”

So not such a disruptive influence then? 

His United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also seemed pretty happy with him after last night’s big win (Source – The Mirror):

“We know he’s one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, he’s got the vision, the player view,” 

“The cross for Ander’s goal was fantastic, then again he plays it out to Marcus (Rashford) and way he gets into the box.”

I’d also like to point out that the Frenchman has turned up in big games too. He played a pivotal role as Man United went on to win the Europa League in 2017, scored in last summer’s World Cup final, got a brace last season as United beat rivals Manchester City and has now shone in recent wins over Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea!

Manchester United as a whole struggled against PSG. That one step-back is a blip on the road. They’ve been terrific since Ole’s arrival and a big part of that is down to Paul Pogba.

It’s time more of us started to recognise and appreciate the French star’s wonderful ability and enjoy his skill-set!

Summer Signing Could Be Liverpool’s Key Man Against Bayern Munich

It may have taken summer signing Fabinho a bit of time settling in at Liverpool but the Brazilian has since shown us that he has the qualities needed to make it at Anfield.

The former AS Monaco man has now made seventeen Premier League appearances and a further four outings in the Champions League.

The Brazil international has played mainly in the holding midfield role and he’s proved previously that he can be a very efficient at right-back.

Tomorrow night the twenty-five year old could be pitched in as a makeshift centre-back with Virgil van Dijk suspended and Joe Gomez definitely out injured. If Fabinho is to start in the backline then it will be because Dejan Lovren hasn’t been passed fit.

Fabinho has played as a centre-half before this term, helping The Reds keep a clean-sheet in their Premier League victory over Brighton & Hove Albion.

It will be a tougher prospect for the midfielder to play in central defence up against Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich tomorrow night.

Liverpool manager Jugen Klopp explained that his whole team, including Fabinho, could be in for a tough night (Source – Daily Mail):

‘Fabinho? In the Champions League, against Bayern Munich, it is not an easy job but it makes sense, it depends all about how we defend in general. 

‘There will be a lot of moments where we have to defend. We have worked on that, we respect the quality of Bayern Munich a lot.’ 

Bayern are currently in second place in Germany’s top flight. They’ve won five out of their last six games and have a top marksman in Polish striker Robert Lewandowski. He’s scored thirteen goals in twenty-one league games.

Lewandowski can bully established centre-backs and only needs a sniff of a chance to get onto the scoresheet.

If Liverpool are going to beat Munich then they will have to stop the Germans from scoring. A lot of emphasis when trying to do that will be played on Joel Matip and his defensive partner.

Fabinho does have the attributes to do well in there.

The summer signing can be impressive in the air. Last term at Monaco, he’d win an average of 3.2 headers per Champions League appearance.

For The Reds this season, Fabinho has won around 2 tackles per league game and that goes up to 2.3 successful tackles in Europe (Stats from Whoscored)

A major plus in having the Brazilian at the heart of Liverpool’s defence could be Fabinho’s concentration levels and his ability to adapt and remain disciplined. Croatian centre-half Lovren has suffered from lapses of concentration in big games in the past, while having played consistently in various positions Fabinho has shown us he has the mentality to stick to a task!

Then there’s the twenty-five year old’s passing ability. We know Reds boss Jurgen Klopp likes to build from the back and Fabinho is very efficient with his passes, whether they be long or shot.

If Klopp has to play with a makeshift centre-back, then I’d fully expect him to go for the tried and trusted in midfield. That should see Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum playing in the engine room, protecting the back four.

If the Premier League title challengers are going to knockout European superpower Bayern Munich, then they’re going to need to have a solid defence display and hope that their fluid attack can put the ball into the back of the net.

Defensively, versatile Fabinho could be the difference maker and he’ll probably need to have a great night to keep Robert Lewandowski quiet.

Here’s hoping we get a thrilling game!

Possible Destinations If Gareth Bale Leaves Real Madrid In The Summer

Gareth Bale must believe that his time at Real Madrid is coming to an end.

The Welsh star is now in his sixth season at the Bernabeu; he’s helped the club win a La Liga title, four Champions League trophies, three World Club Cups and a Copa del Rey. The forward has also managed to bang in 100 goals in 218 appearances for Los Blancos.

Yet even with that glowing CV and the ability to put in match winning performances in the biggest of encounters, the world class talent has never been the darling of the Real support.

It was thought that Bale would leave Madrid last summer. The Welshman came on in the Champions League final and scored a brace to ensure his side beat Liverpool by a 3-1 scoreline.

After the tie a frustrated Bale stated that it might be time to consider a career away from Spain (Source – Evening Standard):

Obviously I need to be playing, I need to be playing week in week out and that hasn’t happened this season for one reason or another,”

“Obviously now I have to sit down in the summer and discuss it with my agent and take it from there.”

“Disappointed not to start the game, thought I deserved it but the manager makes those decisions.”

It was felt that Real’s head coach Zinedine Zidane didn’t fully rate the Welsh international and that star man Cristiano Ronaldo preferred to play alongside Karim Benzema.

In a surprising turn of events, club legend Zidane would leave the giants and Ronaldo would be sold to Italian champions Juventus.

Those two changes meant Bale would stay on at the Bernabeu but it would also heap pressure onto the twenty-nine year old’s shoulders.

Real Madrid as a whole didn’t react well to the significant summer departures. New boss Julen Lopetegui was gone by halloween after just fourteen lacklustre games in charge.

By week twenty-three, Real have managed to get back into the top three but are six points behind league leaders FC Barcelona and have already lost six times in the Spanish top flight!

In the eighteen La Liga games in which he’s appeared this term, Gareth’s scored just six goals and created a mere two assists. He recently grabbed a strike in the derby win over Atletico, proving that he can still turn it on in the bigger games.

The attacker has also scored three European goals in his six Champions League outings.

A big issue is that the fans still haven’t taken to him. They want Ronaldo like stats from the €91m man and he’s not delivered that. A big problem is that the player seems to get injured all too often, when he hits a bit of form a niggle will end up putting him back on the sidelines.

It’s clear Real Madrid need to reinvest in the summer and go out and bring in a talent that can hopefully replace Cristiano. With that in mind, they’ll need to sell and I’d imagine Gareth Bale could be an ideal candidate to move on, given the difficulties that he’s had in Spain.

So where could the superstar forward go? 

Obviously a return to the Premier League will be touted. When he left in 2013 Gareth was one of the league’s top players!

Only a top six club would interest the forward and out of them I can only see two having a strong interest in his signature.

I don’t think former side Tottenham Hotspur will risk blowing their budget or wage structure bringing him back to White Hart Lane. I also don’t believe North London rivals Arsenal have the finances available to launch a bid.

I can’t see the current top two being overly interested in the creative attacker. Bale of 2019 probably won’t interest Pep Guardiola, he’d prefer to stick to the younger options that are currently serving Manchester City well. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has three fantastic forwards and might feel the inclusion of Bale would upset his squad’s balance and harmony.

That leaves Chelsea and Manchester United.

You’ve got to believe the Chelsea option could be dependent on Eden Hazard’s future. The Belgian maestro has long been linked with a move, ironically, to Real Madrid.

If the current Number Ten were to leave Stamford Bridge, then The Blues will no doubt look to bring in an established superstar-type forward. With Bale’s history in the English top flight and his Champions League heroics, he’d certainly fit the bill.

Could Real use their attacker as a makeweight in any Hazard deal?

Man United are a similar calibre of club to Madrid and that could be tempting for the player.

If Jose Mourinho were still in charge of The Red Devils then I’d say that they would definitely go after Gareth, as he was a known fan of the Cardiff born hero. United have a different philosophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who seems to fancy playing hungry, young attackers.

A move to Old Trafford will depend on who the next permanent manager is. 

There are also a few clubs on the continent that might fancy having Gareth Bale in their team.

PSG might be on the lookout for a new wide-man as Neymar continues to be linked with a move back to Spain (From Football365). Bale is the kind of household name that the Ligue 1 champs will always keep an eye on.

Bayern Munich are going to have a rebuilding job in the summer. Arjen Robben has already stated he’ll be leaving the Bundesliga giants in the summer, while Goal.com are reporting that Bayern have still to hold contract talks with veteran Franck Ribery.

Both Milan clubs might step in if interest isn’t firm from other sides. The Serie A sides will be hoping that they can qualify for next season’s Champions League and might believe they can do a deal with Real, if the Spanish team are willing to lower their fee or do a longterm loan deal.

I think it’s going to be a big summer for Gareth Bale. It looks like his time at Real Madrid is running out but a move to another big European club could give the forward a new challenge that he can embrace and prove once again that he can be one of the best players in the world!

Why Man United Could Be An Ideal Eventual Destination For Jadon Sancho

British media outlet The Metro have reported that Borussia Dortmund have told Manchester United that it will cost them £70m to bring Jadon Sancho back to England.

The eighteen year old left Manchester City in the summer of 2017 with the idea of getting more first team football with the Bundesliga giants.

It seems like the decision has paid off perfectly for the youngster, with Sancho playing forty senior games for Der BVB up to this point.

He’s been in fantastic form this season; the young forward has struck seven goals in Germany’s top flight and he’s also created nine assists in his twenty-one league outings.

According to football stats website Whoscored; Jadon takes at least one shot per game, make around two key passes per Bundesliga fixture and three dribbles per league appearance too. His passing success rate is pretty high at 85.4%, which is very strong for a very young wideman. His form has won him international recognition and he’s now won three caps for England.

The winger has also impressed in the Champions League and while Dortmund lost 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur earlier this week, Sancho shone (particularly in the first half) with his dribbling technique and his desire to attack the Spurs defence. Only Jan Vertonghen completed more dribbles than Jadon’s three successful dribbles.

Sancho has all the qualities that Man United look for in a player, especially with the new attacking era that’s started since Jose Mourinho’s dismissal. He’s young, exciting, likes to attack, is direct, efficient on the ball and a player that gets supporters up off their seats. The fact he’s English is another big bonus, as United fans love seeing young English players shining in a red jersey.

I think he’d be very interested if The Red Devils were to make an approach because they’ve got a rich history of playing young British players. Current caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown faith in playing young talented stars with Marcus Rashford and Diogo Dalot playing regularly in the Premier League.

Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard are also regular starters who were developed at the United academy.

It looks like Man Utd could be starting a new transfer plan to bring in extremely talented youngster, much like they did under legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson. As well as Jadon Sancho, Man United have also been heavily linked with Benfica whizkid Joao Felix (via The Guardian).

It’s an understandable strategy given the phenomenal success United when they brought in Cristiano Ronaldo in 2oo3 and Wayne Rooney in 2004.

Yet Man United will have to act with caution when pursing Europe’s talented youngsters, ironically because of Sancho’s history.

As well as scouting and signing top class young talent, United are known as a club that will promote their own youth products. The ‘Class of 92’ is the greatest evidence of that.

The Old Trafford side have a good crop of younger talent coming through at the moment. Scott McTominay, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood have all impressed in the United youth squads and all apart from Greenwood have appeared for the first team.

Solskjaer stated this week that Gomes and Chong could get more opportunities in the next few weeks due to injuries to Man Utd first team members (Source – Goal.com):

“We’ve still got forward options, but Angel and Chong have been training with us all week and the weeks leading up to this, so there’s a big chance they’ll be involved.”

United have to be weary that their top youngsters might look at the success of Jadon at Dortmund and feel that could be them if they believe their chances are limited at Old Trafford. That could be a possibility if Man Utd decide to pay a huge fee to sign Sancho in the summer.

Personally I think Manchester United might believe it’s a risk worth taking as Jadon Sancho has the potential to become a world class attacker.

I think out of all of England’s top teams Manchester United is the one that really believe that if you’re old good enough then you’ll succeed no matter your age!

So it’ll be interesting to see if Sancho decides to come home in the near future or stay on the continent and continue his progression there.

Could Young French Star Be The Heir To Fernandinho’s Man City Throne?

Fernandinho

English newspaper The Daily Mail have suggested that Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Tanguy Ndombele could on Manchester City’s wanted list when the summer transfer window opens.

To be honest it would be a move that would make a lot of sense, in my opinion.

The current Premier League champions often look weaker whenever midfield enforcer Fernandinho isn’t in the side marshalling things in the engine room.

The Brazilian international has a strong work ethic, will win the ball back and is also very efficient with his passing. City just don’t seem to have a player of similar quality to come in when he’s injured or suspended.

Fernandinho’s going to turn thirty-four years of age before the start of next season. With that in mind, Man City boss Pep Guardiola would be foolish if he didn’t want to bring in a younger player to help carry the load and help the team when the veteran’s missing.

I think it’s worth noting that Ndombele has the raw potential to go all the way and become a world class midfielder. That being said I don’t think he’d arrive and walk straight into the Man City team.

Like Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus before him, he’d be asked to watch on from the bench and given proper time to adapt to the English game.

But he has all the attributes to succeed in the Premier League.

The twenty-two year old’s passing average of 88% is higher than that of Fernandinho. The Brazilian does make slightly more tackles per league game (2.1 compared to 2) and the more experienced man makes vastly more clearances and wins more aerial duels (stats from Whoscored).

But with Fernandinho tied to Man City until at least 2020, Tanguy could learn a lot about the holding role from the current City star.

Ndombele received his international debut in October and has been in great form for Lyon in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

He’s a player who remains calm under pressure, that can find a forward pass, has the skills to skip challenges and who doesn’t mind getting stuck in either. Being a young player, he’s of that age that Pep likes as he can mould the midfielder because he’ll be eager to learn and hungry to impress.

Lyon will want top dollar for one of their prized assets. The OL President will only sell for the right price. It could cost any team £70m (Source -The Sun) for Tanguy Ndombele services but that just might be worth it if the Frenchman can give Manchester City the same kind of service Fernandinho has given them over the years.

Young Dutch Defender Would Be An Ideal Liverpool Signing

If Jurgen Klopp could add to any part of his squad at the moment, I’m convinced he would add to his defensive department.

The German coach has watched on as his Liverpool side have faltered without young English stars Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

I’ve never been convinced by Dejan Lovren. Yes the Croatian internationalist can be very strong on occasions but he can also become a liability and sometimes in the biggest of encounters. Against title challengers Manchester City recently, Dejan was at fault for both of City’s goals and that’s allowedthe Premier League champions to close the gap on The Reds.

Joel Matip can do a job in central defence, it’s just that Klopp can’t rely on the twenty-seven year old not to breakdown with yet another injury. The Cameroonian has missed around forty games due to injury issues, since arriving at Anfield in 2016.

Young Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt could be an ideal Liverpool signing in the summer and be a perfect partner playing alongside compatriot Virgil van Dijk.

That’s a view echoed by former Dutch internationalist Rene Van der Gijp (from hitc.com):

“(De Ligt moving to Liverpool) would be great for Dutch football if those guys can play side by side for five to six years,”  

“Then you get one of the best centre-back partnerships in Europe.”

In Van Dijk, Liverpool have a genuine world class centre-back. In De Ligt (if he were to sign) The Reds would be getting a teenage defender well on the way to becoming a world class centre-half.

The nineteen year old has been superb for Ajax this term.

According to Whoscored, Matthijs has a 91.8% passing success rate. The young central defender is also capable of dribbling the ball out of defence. These are both qualities Klopp likes from his defenders and qualities De Ligt shares with Van Dijk.

Matthijs has also been impressive with defensive attributes this term. He leads the way for his team when it comes to winning aerial duels, winning on average around 3.4 per game. He also makes around 3.8 clearances per Eredivisie fixture.

The youngster has also been highly consistent for Ajax in this season’s Champions League.

De Ligt has won thirteen caps for the Dutch national team and he looked particularly good playing beside Virgil for The Netherlands against Portugal last year. Matthijs helped his side keep a cleansheet against the European champions and he also contributed with two assists.

Having the Dutchman in the Liverpool squad would give The Reds a chance to play with three at the back. De Ligt, Van Dijk and Gomez would be a formidable defensive threesome.

The player has already suggested that he needs a new challenge (Source -FourFourTwo):

 “To be honest, we didn’t play at 100 per cent, but we won 7-1. The difference between the sides in the Eredivisie right now is huge.

“The tension is less each time as there’s only two teams who are racking up the points. If we keep winning, it won’t be a problem, but we have to admit that it’s less fun.”

It certainly could be Matthijs de Ligt last season with de Godenzonen. 

Only time will tell if Liverpool will try and capture the teen, But I’m betting other top teams like FC Barcelona, PSG and Manchester City are willing to fight The Reds if the chance arises.

Manchester City Will Be Desperate To Keep Captain Kompany

Vincent Kompany will turn thirty-three years of age come April. The veteran defender has had various injury issues in recent seasons and he’s only made fourteen appearances so far this term.

Yet for me, the Manchester City captain is still invaluable and tying him down to a new deal should be a priority for the Premier League champions.

According to the Daily Mail, The Citizens are close to agreeing a new one year contract with the centre-back. The media outlet state that the player will likely accept a pay cut and that he’ll be given a testimonial game next season.

So why is it important to re-sign the centre-half who hasn’t played in twenty or more league games since the 2014-15 season? 

Well because Kompany is such an inspirational leader and has a great calming influence on the rest of the team.

When he’s fully fit, the Belgian international is still probably the best defender at the club. The backline certainly seems to play with more confidence when he’s in it.

In his nine top flight outings this season; Vincent has a 93% passing success record, wins on averages 2 aerial duels per game and makes 3.3 clearances too. (Source – Whoscored).

In the biggest of games, if fit, he’ll give you 100% and he will probably deliver more times than not!

Now Kompany might not be at the stage where he can play every game and youngsters John Stones and Almeric Laporte might be Pep Guardiola’s preferred choice at centre-back but have no doubts the Club’s captain has helped those two progress. He’s the leader that will have talked them through games and the voice in the dressing room that will have encouraged both young defenders to become greater players.

Yes Pep loves young talent, they’re easier to mould and they are hungry to learn and impress. But the Spanish coach is also keen on having experienced foot-soldiers within his ranks to help guide the squad through difficult moments. He had Carles Puyol and Xavi at FC Barcelona and he had Philip Lahm and Xabi Alonso at Bayern Munich.

At City he has Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. These three veteran players go all the way back to City’s first Premier League triumph in 2012. They’ve gone on to win two more league titles plus enjoy success in the FA Cup and League Cup. They’re winners and Pep Guardiola respects that and encourages his other stars to learn from these extremely positive experienced pros.

Last month, the Man City boss told Sky Sports how important he believes Vincent Kompany to be:

“He is our captain, he has spent 11 years here.”

“Every central defender has quality but no doubt Vincent is special.

“The charisma, the winning, it is incredible. He is one of the best central defenders I have ever seen.”

You can’t get much better endorsements than that one from one of the best managers in world football.

Just having Vincent Kompany inside the Manchester City dressing room and talking to the media about the club is hugely beneficial. He really is a top player and a class act.

The club know he’s not finished and they know that he’s already a City legend.

That’s why I think it is so important to all parties that he stays at the Etihad and helps the club for at least another year!